Number of Homeless Youths in Tel Aviv Up by 25%

NGO also reports increase in teens reporting sexual assault and violence in Ethiopian community.

Tomer Appelbaum

The number of homeless youths in Tel Aviv and the number of teens reporting that they were victims of sexual assault has increased, according to the annual report of the nonprofit organization Elem/Youth in Distress in Israel. The report also noted a rise in the involvement of teens from the Ethiopian immigrant community in incidents of extreme violence.

The report was based on information collected from some 20,000 youths the organization helped in 2013.

There was a 13 percent rise in reports by youths of sexual abuse or assault against them by an adult acquaintance or other teens, to 1,689 in 2013 compared to 1,495 in 2012. The organization reported that its field workers found many cases of youths who reported being victims of sexual assault or of continued sexual exploitation, in most cases by someone they knew — a family member, employer, an acquaintance or a fellow student.

Elem extended assistance in 2013 to around 700 youths who were involved in prostitution, which the organization defined as sexual exploitation in return for money or other valuables. Of these, 98 percent reported being the victims of sexual violence either in the past or the present.

There was a 25 percent increase in the number of homeless youths seeking help from Elem’s “Someone to Run With” project for youth in Tel Aviv whose lives are in danger, 506 compared to 400 in 2012. This seems to reflect a worrying rise in general in the number of homeless young people in the city. Not only do these youths have nowhere to live, they often have problems such as drug addiction or alcohol abuse, and are often involved in survival strategies that involve crime and prostitution, said the organization.

The report was presented yesterday to President Shimon Peres .

The report also discusses the worsening situation of youths of Ethiopian origin. A disproportionate number of the inmates in the Ofek juvenile prison and in military prisons are of Ethiopian background. Elem also found a 15-percent increase between 2012 and 2013 in the involvement of such youths in incidents of serious violence. Last year 1,667 youths from the Ethiopian immigrant community told Elem they had been involved in such incidents, whether as the attacker or the victim.

The report includes data on the problems faced by this group, which includes family poverty, high school dropout rates, drug addiction, suicidal tendencies and feelings of racism and discrimination. Elem noted that this population suffers from a lack of supportive family and community frameworks as well as alienation from their parents due to the cultural and age differences.

Half of the respondents reported cyberbullying or violence using smartphones or the Internet, up 25 percent from 2013. Examples including shunning other children on social media and sending or forwarding pictures of a sexual nature.